Our Black Lives Matter Project - Colourblind
Updated: Nov 10, 2020
On the 25th of May 2020, the world was shocked as an unarmed black man was killed by the police in Minneapolis. The proceeding events lead to a fundamental shift in our views towards racism. People across the west took to the streets in protest of the deeply ingrained systemic racism that is present in our culture. These protests caused people and organisations to take a step back and look inwards, and for the first time hold themselves accountable for their part in this system.
Following the events that unfolded and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, I, like most people, took time to reflect on my own role in this story. I was somewhat aware that there was a level of imbalance in the UK when it comes to race and opportunities, but I was naïvely unaware of the extent that the scale leans in favour of white people. After learning about my own white privilege and the role it has played in my life, I started to get caught up in the whole situation and could only see the negatives.
It was at this point in my journey that one of my closest friends (and the most amazing musician), Ryan Blackburn, called me to explain that he has been in contact with a good friend from school, Carlysle Docta (an amazing rapper). Ryan explained that they were thinking about collaborating on a song but had not got any ideas. Now, for the sake of this post it is worth mentioning that myself and Ryan are white, and Carlysle is black. However, this has never even been a talking point in our friendship. Ryan and Carlysle have worked together on songs throughout their school years and even had shows’ together. Race has never had any bearing on their relationship, music is what unites us as friends.
As previously mentioned, I was caught up in the BLM movement, and educating myself on our history. This led me to see all the negatives. So, I decided I wanted to help create some positivity around the movement and try and show that in some areas of life, our race has no baring. I proposed that Ryan and Carlysle create a song that highlights some of the inequalities that Carlysle faces daily and compare this in stark contrast with the same situations faced in life by Ryan. This juxtaposition highlights small but powerful ways white privilege plays a role in everyone's life. The underlying theme of the song is that in music Ryan and Carlysle do not have anything but their creativity and their passion to stop them.
My musical abilities consist mainly of my proficiency in the triangle, so I had very little to offer in the creation of the song itself, but together we assembled a team to help see this project through.
At the bottom right of the image is Carlysle, Bottom left is Ryan. Top Right is Tom Walker an incredibly talented local music producer, who offered his services to help create the beat and fully record and master the song. Top middle is me, Chris Thompson, owner of CRT Media. I offered to create the cover photo for the single and help record the music video. Top left is my business partner, Jake Renzi. Jake is a Videographer and runs Renzi media, he offered his services to record and edit a music video, and he took it upon himself to record a mini-documentary behind the project.
The song has been titled "Colourblind". We are aware that Colourblind is a term that can have some negative connotations when discussing race. We don't endorse the concept that race-based differences do not matter, and we fully understand that ignoring race only further embeds the systemic racism in our society. The reason the name was chosen is that as we all grew up together, race was not something we ever noticed or discussed. We went to the same school, had the same friends, and shared a love for music. It is only as we have grown older, we learned about race and white privilege and realised our colour blindness. In the process of creating this project we have had some open and honest conversations about race, some of which you will see in the mini-documentary Jake is creating. The song aims to be a celebration of our differences.
It was now my job to create a cover photo for the single. I wanted to try and encapsulate the stark juxtaposition we are trying to highlight in the song and the music video in my artwork. I decided I would shoot a close-up of Ryan & Carlsyle on a black and white backdrop. This would create the contrast I was looking for. Below is a time-lapse of me taking the shot.
For this set up I had my two Neewer LED video lights set up on either side of our subjects to act as my main light source. I then had Jake hold a smaller LED light to fill in some of the shadows between the two subjects. I took the shot on my Sony A7ii using a Sigma 70mm Macro lens. My camera was set up with an 800 ISO, F2.8, and a 1/250 shutter speed.
This photo shows the energy Ryan and Carlsyle have when they are together, and I really wanted to try and show it in the final photo but in a serious and refined form.
Now I needed to edit the photos, firstly I picked out the 4 best photos from the day, and I used a different editing style for each photo using Adobe Lightroom. See the photos below.
After sending these over to the team, we decided that we liked the clean and minimalistic look of the last photo, but it needed further refining. I used photoshop to mask out the two images, I picked the best Ryan from one photo and the best Carlsyle from another, I resized and repositioned both to centre them in the frame better. I then used the brush tools and some colour correction to create true black and true white backgrounds. See the final product below
Compare this to the original image and you can truly see my vision come to life.
I am honestly so proud to have been a part of this project, and it's been an honour to be able to create the artwork for such a powerful song. The song is now finished but due to the Government restrictions, it has delayed our ability to record the music video. Once we can create the video, I will release a second blog post explaining how I came up with the concept.